Kate Sandford is on the verge of turning thirty. She's barely making ends meet writing occasional articles about bands locally but when she lands an interview with The Line, her favorite national music magazine, she knows she's finally about to break into the big time. Unfortunately she goes out to celebrate her birthday the night before and turns up at the interview some combination of still drunk and hungover all at once. Not surprisingly, she does not get the job. Several weeks later, when she has determined that she must buckle down and be an adult, change the direction of her life and get a consistent job, even if it isn't one she'd like, she gets an unexpected call back from The Line. Having pegged her as having a drinking problem but being a good writer nevertheless, they want her to go undercover and enter a rehab program to collect info on a troubled star currently in treatment, Amber Sheppard, also known to the media as The Girl Next Door. The assignment is not with The Line, however. It is for its sister magazine, a successful gossip rag. If Kate can deliver the story, she'll be reconsidered for the job at The Line.
Determined not to blow her second chance, Kate agrees even as she worries how she's going to pull off pretending to be an alcoholic, without ever considering that she might in fact actually have a problem with alcohol. Rehab carries with it some big surprises for Kate as she struggles to understand the grip that alcohol has on her and the effect it has had on her life, her relationships, and her family. As she works through all of this (and the denial so common to addicts), she gets close to Amber. At first, she does it because she has to in order to write the story. But then she finds herself really liking Amber personally. How can she still write a story about her new friend's addiction battles and the private and personal things she's discovered about this young woman? With her dream job and a lot of money riding on the story, how can she not?
Kate is a funny, naive, struggling main character. In short, she's very human and her struggles to know herself and to learn honesty, not only with others in her life (how ironic given the enormous lie she is perpetuating simply by being in rehab for a story) but with herself as well, are authentic and real. While she may have many issues to address, they don't come off as navel-gazing and self-help inspired but are leavened with humor and comedic moments that lighten the tone of the entire book. Certainly fighting an addiction is dark and terrible stuff that can make for a hard and depressing read but that darkness is the polar opposite of what readers will find here. Adding a potential love interest for Kate and the ubiquitous toxic celebrity relationship with the "It" boy for "It" girl Amber lightens the mood still further and allows for some appealing plot twists.
While Kate is the main character, most of the secondary characters are entertaining as well and fleshed out enough to make it clear how they fit into's Kate's life. My biggest quibble with the novel is with how easy overcoming her urge to drink seems to be for Kate in the end, especially given her interior thoughts at the beginning of rehab. The ending of the story is never in doubt here and there are some plot threads given a bit of short shift but over all, the novel is a fun, appealing one that makes for a fast, light-feeling read even as it delivers some hard truths.
For more information about Catherine McKenzie and the book visit her webpage, her blog, Facebook, or follow her on Twitter. Follow the rest of the blog tour or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.
Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.